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Tough Penalties Were The Demise

by Tony Khing / San Jose Sharks
Words such as “man advantage” and “penalty” can be bad words for a hockey team. In Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Los Angeles, they were just that.

Within a slightly six-minute span midway through the first period, the Sharks took three minors. Ben Eager was called for a slash at 11:26. Jack Johnson scored on a slap shot almost a minute later. Ryane Clowe picked up the first of two first period minors (elbowing) at 13:50. At 15:43, Drew Doughty scored the first of his two goals on another slap shot.

Clowe got the third minor for cross-checking at 17:52. But the damage was done and the Kings were well on their way for a 4-0 win.

Being a man down is never a good thing because that means the opponent has one more skater on the ice than you. But there are other reasons why it doesn’t put a smile on a coach’s face.

“You get behind the eight-ball early,” Joe Thornton said. “You play a lot of unnecessary minutes with the penalty kill. It’s tough to get your groove back.”

“The strength of our team is our depth,” Scott Nichol said. “When we’re on the penalty kill, it nullifies our depth.”

“You don’t want to be taking that many penalties early in the game,” Justin Braun said.

One must consider the type of penalty taken as well. Minors such as hooking and holding are lazy penalties – meaning the defender isn’t skating hard enough or is too tired to slow down the opponent. The penalties that Eager and Clowe took in the first period may be construed as emotional. Slashing, elbowing and cross-checking are ways to vent one’s frustrations. And not necessarily good ways, either.

“Not great penalties at all,” Clowe said.

“You just have to keep your cool,” Thornton said. “We addressed it. It’s just one of those things. In the playoffs, you have to keep your head. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. It just has to get better.”

Coach Todd McLellan doesn't want to strip the emotion from his club. He just wants them play with a little more control.

“You have to play with emotion at this time of the year,” McLellan said. “You have to be emotionally attached. You have to have a little fire in your eyes and your belly. But you have to play with controlled and smart emotion. The first three penalties put a lot of stress on our team. They’re one of the top defensive teams in the League for a reason. They have the ability to defend. You can’t fall behind 2-0, 3-0 against them because they shut it down.

“We were very undisciplined as far as penalties go,” McLellan added. “We can’t do that. We have to understand where we are at this time of the year. Trying to get away with things doesn’t happen now. It really comes back to cost you and it did tonight.”

And give the Kings credit for creating traffic in front of the net. On Doughty’s goal, Antti Niemi said he saw the puck as it moved across the ice, but then lost sight of it amongst the bodies.

“For a couple of the goals I, I had some trouble finding the puck,” Niemi said. “I don’t think for any of them I didn’t see (it at all). There were some screens on a few of them so they made it harder. I just need to keep my focus on finding the puck early when the shots come."

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